Women’s basketball: Bears face tough road to Pac-12 tournament championship

A preview of Cal’s trip to Seattle for the Pac-12 women’s tournament, courtesy of staff wrier Elliott Almond:


RECORD: 21-8 overall, 13-5 in Pac-12. Tied for third with Stanford.

NEXT OPPONENT: Quarterfinals at 8:30 p.m. Friday against the winner of Thursday night’s first-round game between fifth-seeded Washington and No. 12 Utah.

CAL UPDATE: The fourth-seeded Golden Bears have one of the conference’s best teams, led by All-Pac-12 seniors Reshanda Gray (Pac-12 player of the year) and Brittany Boyd (Naismith Award semifinalist). Also, Mikayla Cowling and Gabby Green were named to the all-Pac-12 freshman team. Cal, though, might have two big hurdles to reach the championship Sunday in Seattle. It possibly could play hometown favorite Washington (22-8) and then top-seeded Oregon State, which defeated the Bears 73-55 in the regular-season finale last weekend. “Overall, our program is at the point where we want to win championships,” coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “So there is a little disappointment” in tying for third in the regular-season standings.

However, Gottlieb said the competitive Pac-12 campaign prepared Cal for the postseason. “We have a team when things are clicking we can be really good,” she said. “This could be one of our best March runs.”


Rugby: Cal hosts PAC 7s tournament this weekend

Seven-man rugby, which will make its Olympic debut at the 2016 Games in Brazil, will be on display Saturday and Sunday when Cal is host to the PAC Rugby 7s Championship.

Ten schools from the Pac-12 Conference will participate in the event at Witter Rugby Field. The Bears, ranked second nationally, are chasing their third straight conference title. But the competition will be fierce — the event includes five teams ranked among the nation’s top 17.

Cal, collegiate rugby’s most successful program in the traditional 15-a-side game, is hosting a fall rugby 7s event for the first time. Teams will play two seven-minute halves with a one-minute halftime break in a wide-open, fast-paced game.

Pool play begins Saturday at 9 a.m. and runs through Sunday at 1:30 p.m., when the top two teams meet for the championship. The tournament features a total of 33 matches.

Rivals Cal and Stanford face off in the tournament’s first game in Pool A, which also includes Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State and USC. Pool B has Colorado, Oregon, UCLA, Utah and Washington State.

Teams will be re-seeded before Sunday’s action.

Cal brings a 9-1 season record into the tournament, its one defeat coming at the hands of third-ranked UCLA by a 14-12 score in the West Coast Sevens title game at San Luis Obispo last month. The Bruins are 8-2, Stanford 6-1.

Also included in this week’s national rankings are No. 5 Arizona State, No. 14 Arizona and No. 17 Utah.

The Bears are 74-14 all-time in rugby 7s, including a 22-0 win over UCLA in last season’s PAC 7s title game, and 26-12 over Utah the year before.


Gates open at 8 a.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday.

Daily admission is $10, $5 for kids 12-and-under and for seniors, and free for Cal students and children 2-and-under.


Basketball: Pac-12 tournament roundup

Here are semifinal results Friday from the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Garden Arena in Las Vegas:

UCLA 84, STANFORD 59: This one was never close. The second-seeded Bruins (25-8) had leads of 9-2, 25-4 and 41-21 in the first half on the way to clinching a spot in Saturday’s title game. Kyle Anderson had 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, Norman Powell scored 22 points and Travis Wear made all eight of his shots to score 16.

Stanford (21-12), which essentially clinched its NCAA tournament bid with a win over Arizona State the night before, never threatened the Bruins. Dwight Powell scored 16 points and Chasson Randle had 11.

ARIZONA 63, COLORADO 43: The top-seeded Wildcats (30-3) pulled away in the second half to advance to Saturday’s championship game. Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson included a SportsCenter-worthy alley-oop dunk among his 16 points. T.J. McConnell had 12 points and five assists and Aaron Gordon filled the stat line with nine points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks and three steals.

Askia Booker scored 12 points and Xavier Johnson 11 for the Buffaloes (23-11), who shot just 22.7 percent in the second half and 29.4 percent for the game.


Basketball: Pac-12 tournament updates

Here’s a game-by-game roundup of action at the Pac-12 tournament:

STANFORD 79, ARIZONA STATE 58: The Cardinal (21-11) played one of its best games in six seasons under coach Johnny Dawkins to rout No. 3 seed ASU (21-11) and advance to a semifinal matchup vs. UCLA. Chasson Randle scored 21 points, Dwight Powell had all 15 of his in the second half and Stanford outscored the Sun Devils 49-31 in the second half.

ASU star point guard Jahii Carson, who already has announced he will leave school for the NBA, was held scoreless in the first half and finished with 10 points. He’d averaged 28.8 ppg in five previous career games played in Las Vegas. Carson, center Jordan Bachynski and wing Jermaine Marshall combined to shoot just 7 for 26.

UCLA 82, OREGON 63: Jordan Adams scored 15 points, Zach LaVine and Travis Wear each had 14 and the second-seeded Bruins (24-8) snapped an eight-game win streak by the Ducks. Kyle Anderson contributed 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists for UCLA, which will face Stanford in a Friday semifinal.

The Bruins held just a 37-35 halftime lead, then erupted for 45 second-half points.

Joseph Young scored 29 for the Ducks (23-9), who shot just 8 for 26 from 3-point range.

ARIZONA 71, UTAH 39: It was not this close. The top-seeded Wildcats (29-3) led 34-13 at the half and continue to make a strong case they will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson scored a team-high 14 points in just 26 minutes, T.J. McConnell had 13 points and Aaron Gordon had 11 points and seven rebounds.

The Wildcats will face the winner of the Cal-Colorado game in Friday’s 6:06 p.m. semifinal.

No one scored in double digits for the Utes (21-11), who shot 12 for 47 (25.5 percent) for the game and had more turnovers (8) than baskets (5) in a  nightmarish first half.


Basketball: Colorado game thread

Click here to read my game story.

FINAL SCORE: Colorado 59, Cal 56. Cobbs’ 3-point try at the buzzer missed and the Bears (19-13)  likely will be denied their third straight NCAA tournament bid. Cobbs scored 21 points and Wallace had 13. The two combined to score Cal’s final 22 points. Solomon had 16 rebounds.

Usual post-game theme: Team didn’t play hard enough in the first half, then made a few critical mistakes at the finish after rallying. No Cal player or coach was willing to predict what might come Sunday, but Cobbs’ red, tear-filled eyes on the interview podium said it all.

6:30 2nd H: A steal and emphatic breakaway dunk by Cobbs and Cal trails just 49-48.

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Basketball: Colorado survives USC 59-56, earns Pac-12 quarterfinal rematch Thursday vs. Cal


As expected, it will be a Cal-Colorado rematch on Thursday after the Buffaloes held off USC 59-56 in their Pac-12 tournament opener.

Tipoff is 2:36 p.m.

Cal beat the Buffaloes 66-65 in overtime on Saturday in Berkeley to halt a three-game losing skid and secure the No. 4 seed for this event.

The Buffs struggled a bit to create the rematch before finally dispatching the 12th-seeded Trojans.

“We made just enough winning plays,” CU coach Tad Boyle said. “We’re going to have to make a lot more tomorrow against a very good Cal team.”

Looking back to Saturday’s loss, Boyle noted that Cal had 10 offensive rebounds after halftime. “What we have to do better than we did in Berkeley is we have to finish defensive possessions,” he said.  

Boyle scoffed at the suggestion there may be more pressure on Cal because the Bears likely need another win to solidify their NCAA tournament resume and the Buffaloes (22-10), with a strong RPI, may already be in.

“We both want to win this game — throw all that other stuff out the window,” Boyle said. “Cal has a hell of a coach — a Hall of Fame coach, in my opinion. They have great seniors in Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon.

“They don’t want their season to end. They don’t want their Pac-12 first game to be their last game. We want to keep playing. That’s going to be a hell of a game.”

Guard Askia Booker had 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the Buffs (22-10) and all-Pac-12 center Josh Scott, after making  just one of his first 10 shots, scored on three straight possessions to help CU pull away from a 50-all tie. Scott finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.

Byron Wesley scored 23 points for the 12th-seeded Trojans (11-21).

STANFORD 74, WASHINGTON STATE 63: Chasson Randle scored 22 points to lead five Cardinal players in double digits and Stanford (20-11) advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinal against No. 3 seed Arizona State. The teams split two regular-season games.

WSU (10-21) got 25 points from DaVonte Lacy and was even at 50-all with just over 9 minutes left. But Stanford answered with a 10-0 run and mae 21 of 24 free throws to ice the win.

OREGON 88, OREGON STATE 74: The Ducks (23-8) missed their first nine shots, then made 30 of 43 the rest of the night to zoom past the Beavers (16-15).

Joseph Young had 19 points for Oregon, which will face No. 2 seed UCLA in Thursday’s quarterfinal. Jason Calliste added 17 points and Mike Moser had 13.

Angus Brandt scored 20 and Roberto Nelson 19 for the Beavers.

UTAH 67, WASHINGTON 61: Delon Wright had 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocked shots, leading No. 8 seed Utah over No. 9 Washington in a first-round game.

The Utes (21-10) face top-seeded Arizona on Thursday at noon.

Washington (17-15) got 16 points from Darin Johnson and 15 from freshman Nigel Williams-Goss. Star senior C.J. Wilcox shot just 4 for 15 and scored 14 points.


ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi, in his most recent NCAA projection, lists Cal as the “first team out” of the 68-team field. He has six Pac-12 teams in his bracket.


Basketball: Bears hope to keep vibe going

We’ll find out this week in Las Vegas if there was magic in a team meeting the Golden Bears held last week.

Cal’s players gathered in the locker room last Thursday, the day after a tough loss to Utah, and point guard Justin Cobbs is convinced the exchange sent the Bears in the right direction.

Two days later, they closed out the regular season with a 66-65 overtime win over Colorado, securing the No. 4 seed for this week’s Pac-12 tournament.

“I feel pretty confident,” Cobbs said. “After that meeting, I think a lot of things changed for us. Collectively as a team, we understand each other a lot more.

“We’re a lot more positive, we’re a lot more cohesive and together. That goes a long way because guys have to put egos to the side. That goes a long way on the court.”

Freshman Jordan Mathews said the give and take between teammates “sorted everything out” for a team that had lost eight of its previous 12 games.

“We have a bunch of guys who want to win,” Mathews said. “It was night and day between the Utah game and the Colorado game. It’s never too late to progress and I think we made a big jump on Saturday.”

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Basketball: What do the Bears need to achieve in Las Vegas to secure NCAA tournament spot?

Asked Saturday after Cal’s 66-65 overtime win over Colorado what the Bears need to get done at the Pac-12 tournament to assure themselves a spot in the NCAA field, senior Justin Cobbs acknowledged, “I wish I could tell you.”

Then he provided the only sure-thing road map to good news from the NCAA selection committee next Sunday.

“I’d be happy if we could win it,” he said. “Right now we’re playting with a lot of confidence. Just play every game like it’s your last.”

Now 19-12, 10-8 in the Pac-12 and owner of the No. 4 (and first-round bye in the conference tournament), the Bears won for just the second time in their past six games.

They were listed among the “first teams out” of the field in CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm’s Sunday projections.

Palm said he’s constantly asked this time of year, “How many conference tournament games do we have to win to get in?”

His answer: “All of them. That’s the only sure thing. Yes, fewer might do, but the only way to control your own destiny is to win them all. Otherwise, your team is at the mercy of what other teams do.”

The Bears got no help Sunday when another bubble team, Nebraska, scored a big road win over No. 9 Wisconsin. The Cornhuskers improved to 19-11 overall, 11-7 in the Big Ten with their eighth win in nine games.

So it’s not just what Cal does beginning Thursday in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. It’s how others fare also.

A lot of moving parts, and the Bears still need a bunch of them to fall into place.


Women’s basketball: Bears upset by Cougars in quarterfinals of Pac-12 tournament

Down by as many as 15 points midway through the second half, the second-seeded Bears rallied against No. 7 Washington State before losing 91-83 in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament at Key Arena in Seattle.

Ranked 2oth in the nation, Cal (21-9) trailed 78-63 with 7 1/2 minutes left. The Bears scrambled within six points in the final 2 minutes, but got no closer.

Reshanda Gray had 26 points and Gennifer Brandon 20 to lead the Bears, whose seeding for the NCAA tournament may suffer as a result of the loss. Cal entered the game projected as a No. 5 seed.

Afure Jemerigbe  contributed 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals, while All-Pac-12 point guard Brittany Boyd scored nine points before fouling out with 5:47 left.

Lia Galdeira scored 27 for the Cougars (17-15), who lost twice to Cal during the regular season and hadn’t beaten the Bears since 2011.


Basketball: The complicated road to a No. 4 seed

I have a headache.

Ah, but you are the beneficiaries because, with some help, I believe I have identified the four scenarios that could earn Cal a No. 4 seed and first-round bye in next week’s Pac-12 tournament.

There is no way for the Bears to climb into the No. 3 position, and best I can tell they cannot finisher lower than the No. 7 seed.

First, here are the standings headed into play Saturday:

Arizona 15-2
UCLA 12-5
Arizona State 10-7
Colorado 10-7
Cal 9-8
Oregon 9-8
Stanford 9-8
Utah 9-8
Washington 8-9
Oregon State 7-10
USC 2-15
Washington State 2-15

The seeding positions that are set: No. 1 Arizona; No. 2 UCLA; No. 10. Oregon State.

For the Bears to get No. 4 and a Thursday quarter-final against the No. 5/12 winner, here’s what has to happen:

— Cal beats Colorado, Arizona State beats Oregon State, Stanford beats Utah and Arizona beat Oregon. That leaves ASU at 11-7 and the No. 3 seed. Cal, Colorado and Stanford all would be 10-8 and Cal wins the tiebreaker based on its 2-1 record against the other two.

— Cal beats Colorado, Oregon State beats ASU, Stanford beats Utah, Arizona beats Oregon. That creates a four-way tie between Cal, Colorado, ASU and Stanford, all at 10-8. ASU’s 4-2 record vs. the other three gives it the No. 3 seed. Cal gets the No. 4 seed based on its 2-1 record vs. Colorado and Stanford.

— Cal beats Colorado, Oregon State beats Arizona State, Stanford beats Utah and Oregon beats Arizona. That creates a five-way tie between Cal, Colorado, ASU, Stanford and Oregon. ASU earns the No. 3 seed based on its 5-3 record vs. the other four. Cal is the No. 4 seed because of its 3-1 record vs. Colorado, Oregon and Stanford.

— Cal beats Colorado, Oregon State beats Arizona State, Utah bears Stanfod and Oregon beats Arizona. (Same as above, but Utah beats Stanford). Again, ASU gets the No. 3 seed based on its 5-3 record vs. the other four. Cal is 2-1 vs. Colorado, Oregon and Utah and gets the No. 4 seed.

Please pass the Advil.